Monday, June 19, 2017

Snowy Ascent of Wheeler Peak, June 2017

I wanted to climb Wheeler Peak while it still had snow, but I didn't want it to take all day. My solution? Get up at 4 a.m. and start! I was at Stella Lake for a beautiful sunrise, and have to admit that I spent more than a few minutes taking photos.

Then I went around the lake and crossed this snow slope with crampons on. Except they weren't adjusted quite right, so I had some problems, and was slow.

When I got to a melted out patch, I found these interesting flowers. (And still haven't had time to look them up!)

Then it was on to more snow. The top of the couloir doesn't look that far, right?

Getting closer! I kept switchbacking up that gully for what seemed like a very, very long time. It was over 1,000 feet elevation gain.

The lake kept getting smaller and smaller. And I reminded myself that I would have a very fun time going down all this snow.

At the top of the couloir, it was time for rocks. The wind had blown most of the snow away. So I switched from my mountaineering boots to my approach shoes, which made it easy to go up the rest of the way.

I did find more snow at the very top.

But even there I found bare ground. I took a couple selfies to prove I was there.


Then I walked the ridge so I could enjoy the views. Here's looking south towards Baker Peak and Mount Washington.

And coming back, this is the ridge between Wheeler and Baker peaks.

I found the mailbox had been kind of crushed by falling rocks. I forced the door open and left my name in a little notebook.

Then it was time to head down. It was getting windier, and I even got blown down once.

The best part was the 1,000 foot glissade down the couloir. I kept my camera in my pack, though, as I wasn't sure how fast I would go and was holding on tight to my ice axe. It was so much fun going down.

I got down to the lake in good time and in great spirits. The early morning hike up the mountain was just what I needed. And hopefully that has helped acclimatize me for the season! It usually seems that the first mountain climb of the year is the hardest. It's now possible to climb the mountain with hardly any snow on the trail. Before long more flowers will be blooming, making the hike more colorful.

Friday, June 16, 2017

First 2017 Hike to Stella Lake, Great Basin National Park

 June rolled around, which meant that the temperatures were warming up and the kids didn't have school, so we could go on a fun hike. Jenny and I joined forces and took the kids up the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. We had heard that there wasn't much snow on the Summit Trail, which goes by Stella Lake, whereas the other high trails had lots of snow on them.

As we walked, I noticed the horizontal lines on this limber pine. What created them?
 If you guessed sapsucker, you're right. The woodpecker is looking for insects.

We still found some snow on the trail, along with aspen trees with teeny tiny leaves.

This is one of my favorite parts of the trail, it's like we're going through an aspen tunnel. The trees have bent trunks because of the weight of the snow pushing them down.

We emerged from the aspens to a meadow filled with snow buttercups.

One last snow drift to hike over...

...and then we were at the historic dam at Stella Lake. The dam was built back when the Osceola Ditch was being built (about 1890s) to increase the capacity of the lake and thus the ditch. I don't think it worked too well.

On the other side of the lake we saw where snow banks were collapsing into the lake.

Desert Boy wanted to make a raft out of logs.

Before long this progressed into Desert Girl testing out how waterproof her snow boots were.

She wasn't being the best role model for Willow.

But I don't think Willow cared.

The boys were trying out a potential boat. They all said that the water wasn't that cold. We reminded them that there was snow on the other side, but that didn't dissuade them.

Since it was a warm day, they kept playing in the water.

Even Ava, who wasn't feeling that great, got in on the action.

Desert Boy tried rowing his log. It didn't work out well.

Charlie was building a dock and the kids decided to bring some more logs over.

It was fun watching everyone just playing.

Although I was getting cold just watching Desert Boy!

Then he fell off.

The kids finally got cold on the hike back. Maybe the snow drifts finally made them realize that it's not quite summer at 10,400 feet?

Jenny asked for this photo in the meadow with Wheeler Peak in the background. Nice. I think it's going to be a summer with lots more hikes! Hurray!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Treasure Hunts

We headed to the Midwest to see family over Memorial Day weekend. We don't often see my side of the family, so it was a really nice opportunity. Desert Boy had a late birthday present that consisted of a treasure hunt. He found a clue that led him to this big box. He thought it might be the treasure chest.

He and Desert Girl figured out how to open the lock (with a little help!)

What did they find inside?

Another locked box and a clue.

The clue was rather hard to read, though, unless you were reading it from the correct side. ;)

Meanwhile, the younger cousins were cruising around the yard.

With the clue deciphered, they opened another box to find yet another box! This one was a puzzle box. The clue said to look for the cold, hard cash.

That turned out to be $5 bills frozen in a huge block in the freezer.

It was fun watching the kids trying to figure out how to get to the money faster.

While we were there, we celebrated my youngest brother's 30th birthday. Woohoo! It was a great day for a backyard barbeque.

Then Andrew had his own treasure hunt. One of the clues was "I want to see summer."

Andrew looked for a tiny Olaf lego that we didn't even know existed. Then he clued in to the artwork and found a clue behind a different version of Olaf.

His treasure hunt was hard, with clues such as "Channel your inner Michelangelo during breakfast" (under the dining room table), and "It's behind you when you sit on your throne of comfort" (in the toilet tank). Andrew took it with good humor.

He was required to come back and read each clue to the onlookers.

My brother Matt came up with the great idea of putting one of the clues into a different type of code.
Do you recognize it?
 Hint: it was used in the movie The Martian. Since Andrew is a self-employed computer and app programmer, we knew he would get it fast. And he did! It was hexadecimal.

Soon it was time to eat some more.

Including birthday cake!

It's so fun to see the kids look on with delight at birthday cake. Oh, so much anticipation!

Andrew had a little help blowing out candles.

Desert Boy had some quality time with Grandpa.

We also enjoyed the fun children's museum, where both young-in-years and young-at-heart play.

Desert Boy and Desert Girl especially loved the Creativity Workshop, where they mastered the use of glue guns.

 We had a great time at a nearby nature preserve. I asked the kids to be quiet and listen for a minute to see what they could hear. This is what they did.

One of the biggest treasures of the trip was meeting our new niece/cousin. She's only two months old, so she will be changing so much over the next months. We were delighted to see her and hold her.

And then it was time to return to the high desert and show off its wonders with our au pair, Charlie. We knew many more adventures awaited us, but were so glad to have gotten to spend some lovely time with family. Thanks to our terrific hosts!
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